Hello Phnom Penh

Our beautiful stay in Siem Reap has ended as this morning we shared our last breakfast omelette and headed to the airport.

The hotel staff are just lovely. They try and look after your every need and there is a lot of hands together in prayer position, greetings. When we left they lined up to stay goodbye and the next minute the girl at the reception desk ran out and jumped into the car for the ride yo the airport. I like to think it was to chat to us because she liked our group and not because she wanted a tip!

Pete has made friends, as usual, with the locals particularly with Chilli a young man who works at the hostel Pete usually stays in when holidaying in Siem Reap. It’s opposite the hotel we have been staying in and we have called in several times for a drink at his friendly little bar.

The plane flight of 40 mins to PP cost us all of $25 each!

Pete had warned that PP was much busier, noisier, dustier then SR and I think he’s right. On the road in from the airport we spotted  many shops of all types especially tile shops. They must be retiling the whole of PP! Quite a few coffee shops, tools and spare parts, taps, wooden items, little local cafes and wires. All over the place wires hanging from pole apparently connecting the entire city! Pete says electricity is very expensive here. A lot of the cost is in the wires!

We went to Pete and El’s apartment first. It’s in a street one back off one if the boulevards and is typical of PP streets. Not paved – yes really- lots of wires , and tall gates providing security. His building is ground and 2 floors and they are on the first. It has a very large balcony which is really their living area.

 You enter up a staircase into a large  kitchen and a little laundry. Then a long hall way runs along and out to the balcony where the love of El’s life  live happily.  ( after Pete). Her two little lovebirds !

 There are two bedrooms , each with a double bed and own bathrooms Camodian style – a shower just in the room with no curtain or seperate wet area. Mind you I have had several bathrooms of this style in Italy!

We left our bags and got their local tuk tuk man to take us to the Russian market. El wanted to get a few things including new shirts for Pete. He hates shopping so she took advantage of showing us the market and doing some shopping.

We had to recover in a nearby cafe with Cambodian beer and then their favourite little noodle bar for a quick lunch before tuk tukking it back to get our bags to get to our hotel. They really aren’t set up for visitors! We’re staying at the lovely little Hilary’s hotel a few doors down from the bar restaurant Petes friend Nick owns and where El works.

It’s a lovely little place so after a swim two of us painted our nails and two had a business style meeting ! Guess who!
More later with pictures after the Engagement Party tonight.

Amazing day at Ankor Wat

The feeling you get at the Temples of Siem Reap cannot be underestimated. It’s an awe inspiring place and we thoroughly enjoyed our many hours spent there today. 

We started early – up at 4.30 and on the road by 5.  The weather was cool in our air conditioned tuk tuk! We had to use our newly purchased kroma to keep us warm on the 1/2 hr drive out to the Temples. 

The hotel provided us with a picnic breakfast and with our guide Sok’s help we found a spot along with hundreds of others to view the sun rise over the largest and probably the most famous of the Temples, Ankor Wat. 

    
Our guide a lovely gentle father of 5 boys and one adopted baby girl was full of interesting stories and good ideas for getting the most out of a trip to the amazing site. 

We moved off and visited the first of the temples deciding wisely , to leave Ankor Wat itself to the end. 

The pace was good and the feeling gentle and hushed as we moved around the partly restored Temples. 

   
    
    
    

There were hundreds of saffron robed monks ranging from about 7 years old up. Quite a spectacular show. It was a day of blessing for the monk and nuns and they were all out in force. 

It didn’t bother us in any way as the area is huge and we really only saw this gathering when we returned to our tuk tuk to drive to the next temple. The one made famous by Angelina Jolie and Tomb raiders. It has started restoration but has  a long way to go. It’s the one with gnarling tree roots pushing through the building knocking over stonework. 
   
 
I loved this temple. It had a very eerie feel to it. 

   
   
We stopped for lunch before arriving at the grand Ankor Wat temple. What a place it is. 

We climbed yet more steep steps.  All the way to heaven! 

El had her fortune told by one of the young monks. Not sure she loved what she heard…… But ……

Then as we walked out towards the tuk tuk we crossed the moat and Peter and El stopped and walked to the edge. We kept walking and and fifteen minutes later a very excited Pete and El arrive to tell us he had proposed and El had accepted. How lucky are we to be with them to share the love. 

 

El having her fortune told by a young monk

  

very excited El and Peter after annoucing their engagement.

 

We returned to the hotel tired, dusty but very excited. 

A night to celebrate. 

Sunset at Ankor Wat

We started our day at the National Museum which is a modern gallery, very well organised and labelled for tourists. Typical of the type of service you are given here,  the hotel sold us the tickets and rang for a car from the museum to pick us up. Within 10 mins a van arrived and off we went to start our tour. 

We walked through the four main galleries and got a history of the Khmer Civilisation, the Khmer Kings , Buddhism and of course the Temples or Wats of Cambodia. Really interesting and a great introduction to our visit to Ankor Wat this afternoon. 

We walked back into town and felt very pleased that ‘winter’ has continued today and the weather is very pleasant. No hotter than Brisbane! 

We escaped the noise and motorcycles by having lunch at Genevieve’s a well run restaurant near our hotel. It is named after an Australian woman who gave much to the people of Cambodia. Such tasty food. 

I had green mango salad with chicken Yum. Steve and El tried Lok Lac a local beef dish served with an egg and Pete had spicy beef salad. All delicious. 

   
 
After lunch time for a siesta before heading with our tuk tuk driver out to the Wats for sunset. We timed our visit to get to the ticket office by just before 4 to buy a ticket for this afternoon and tomorrow. When we arrived it seems the rules changed and the office now opens at 5. We waited and got first tickets and were off and away. We got out there to discover hundreds of people attending what looked like a political rally. So busy! People also having picnics and laying in hammocks looking very relaxed. 

   
    
 
We walked up the hill to view the sunset with monks in saffron robes, locals with children, and a cast of assorted tourists some with a distinct aroma of BO. Some people should never wear polyester. 

The stone work at the top of the steep stairway climb was crumbling but quite atmospheric. 

   
    
 
So it was back to town and a visit to the Cambodian craft market where everything is hand made from recycled materials. Some beautiful things and we all found a few little gifts for Christmas. It was set in a lovely garden where we sat and enjoyed a beer whist watching some children put on a cultural show. 

   
    
 
By now we were tired and ready for dinner so walked back towards our hotel and the Night Markets an area full of stalls and outdoor eating. We shared a few simple dishes before heading home to bed. 

We have a 4.30 wake up so we’re out at Ankor Wat for sunrise. 

Siem Reap is proving to be a great place for a holiday. Put it on your list. 

Day 2. Late Breakfast and swim

We decided on a late breakfast followed by a swim in the roof top pool. Always a good way to start a sight seeing day. 

Then some more tripping around.  The streets along the river are full of little shops and stalls, everyone trying to make a living : some selling fresh sugar cane juice, wooden items at such a low cost it seems mean not to buy something! And the sculptures along the river walk are whimsical and fun. Elephants, crocodiles, Buddhas , feather dusters and little wooden cages I thought were for birds but are little spirit cages. The Cambodians are wonderfully superstitious. 

Pete has some wonderful stories to tell of people he’s met and the tales they’ve told him. This includes the funny children in his class who apparently as well as calling him Teacher Peter have lots of other little names for him. Seems he’s quite popular with the children. 

    
   

Night life on the streets of Siem Reap

I was told they didn’t celebrate Christmas here in Cambodia but the devotion to Christmas lights has travelled here and the streets are decorated with festive twinkly lights and as always the streets look better when dressed for a night out. 

There were lots  of little fairy lights wound around trees, poles and shopfronts and it all looks rather lovely. We took a tuk tuk –  my first ride in one and it was fun. The driver perched on his motor bike pulling  us along at a good pace,  weaving in and around other tuk tubs, people, cars and bikes. Such skill. 

We arrived at the rather grand FCC or Foreign Correspondence Club. Such clubs were big in past years and particularly the one in Phnom Phen sheltered many a journalist, sipping a gin and tonic,  during the war years. We met my friend Lynette from Brisbane. Lynette and I are in a mahjong group and although we don’t know each other well, happened to mention we were both going to Cambodia in December. She is here volunteering at the New Hope School and outreach centre. She’s been before and has made some friends here. This is something I’m quite interested in so was keen to find out about it. 

  
We share lots of stories over cocktails in the twinkling gardens before heading off to the eat areas of Siem Reap for a Cambodian BBQ where we sat around a steaming pot and cooked out meats and mixed it with the vegetables simmering in the saucer part of the pot. Good clean eating. We chatted all night with Pete and El telling us all about their life in Cambodia and hearing about Lynette’s life as a volunteer. 

  
Eventually it was good night and back to our room above the beeping horns and zipping motorcycles. Can’t wait to ride Pete’s bike in PP! 

Hugs for my big boy Cambodia style

After a short but sweet stay in Singapore we boarded our Silk air flight to Siem Reap. 

We flew in over the rice paddy fields and patchwork farms to Siem Reap to find Pete and El waiting for us at the ‘International Airport’. 

Passing through customs was a funny adventure. We lined up for our visa with passport, paperwork and photo in hand. You shuffle up to the counter, pay your money and wait as your passport is passed along a line of at least 5 people who all do something to it. 

It arrives at the last man who starts to call names. From the scrum of people waiting in a disorderly clusters  you push through as you hear your name. ‘Angela’ ….Thomas ….and eventually Frances ! 

Hello Cambodia. 

Oh it was wonderful to see Pete, hug him and El and start our journey in Cambodia. 

We headed to the hotel in the hotel courtesy van in a busy part of town. Pete and El had arrived early that morning and had already made friends with all the hotel staff. The hotel is not far from Pub Street which comes alive at night. After staying in Tarifa it seems we know how to find the fun end of any town! 

We met Ken ( definitely not the way to spell his name) our hotel supervision who was so very friendly and showed us to our room on the second floor above the street scape of tuk tuk drivers, building renovations, beeping horns, hammers banging, foot spas and so much more. 

Off we ventured to the streets below to checkout the local scene. But really all we wanted to do was talk. Remember we haven’t seen Pete and El in nearly 1 year. So we found a nice shady bar and sat our selves down for a juice. Or was it too early for a beer. Pete and Steve decided it wasn’t,  so beers for the boys. 

The weather is great. Not as hot as Brisbane. Ken our hotel manager said it was winter which lasts about 2 days! So we made our plans for visits to Ankor Wat, the museum, markets and of course the day spa for a massage. 

  
Our conversation flowed and then suddenly it was lunch. So after another walk through the little streets we found a lovely local place and ordered. Fish salad for me,curry for the boys and El. Delicious. 

   

   
  
After lunch we visited the local markets, surprisingly clean and orderly,  where the ladies squatted amongst  vegetables, girls threaded beads and tuk tuk drivers touted for business. Pete used his Khymer language skills and managed to get the price down on some coconut bowls. Then we got the cotton wraps. Another bargain. Markets are fairly much the same all over the world. They certainly weren’t as aggressive or shrill as the Chinese or as persistent as the Vietnamese. The sellers, mostly female were quiet , friendly and helpful. 

We even bought a book Pete recommended and I have been wanting to read.  

  
The afternoon was spent wandering the streets, crossing the small green river and visiting a quiet area with a Wat or temple with a reclining Buddha. 

A quick afternoon nap. 

Then dinner. 

Christmas in Cambodia 

This year will be a different way of celebrating Christmas. 

We’re off to Cambodia to visit our older son Peter and his girlfriend Elena. 

We leave tomorrow. Yay. I can hardly sleep! 

Today was a great day. My birthday! 🎉🍸🎈🎂🎊🎉🍸😀Always a lovely time to celebrate with family and friends. I’ve been celebrating since last week when I went to Sydney to see my sister and nieces, nephew and school friends.   

Tonight we went to Happy Boys for dinner with Rob and Jordan  – another lovely night for two girls with my Happy Boys. Steve and Rob. 

So tomorrow off we fly to Singapore and then Siem Reap. 

Follow along.